TV From The Crypts: Star Trek – The Next Generation Season 1
Now that I’ve finally left the sexist and oppressive visions that the 1960’s had for future space travel, I can move on to the rigid and unrealistic views encountered in the 1980’s. I shouldn’t be that harsh, considering Roddenberry did indeed have very advanced notions for the show, but I am beginning to wonder if being a Trekkie means enjoying a science fiction oriented soap opera. Yet there were some more enduring and enjoyable themes in this series when compared to the original. So far I would say I enjoy it significantly more than the original. This time I’ve decided to delve in to that taking an episode by episode approach, so that you might be able to pick and choose which episodes you want to watch in the future.
Like any good old 80’s or 90’s TV show, this show had a full 2 hour pilot. This one, Encounter at Farpoint, reveals a new Enterprise ship that is on a mission to the Farpoint station to pick up its remaining crew members. Despite future interactions between the two, the first encounter of Picard (Patrick Stewart) with his second in command Riker is quite honestly painful. Picard is rude, dismissive, and treats Riker like a child. Hopefully the writers realized from the start that this would not work for the show, which might be why Picard’s behavior improves significantly after this episode.
Essentially this episode introduces us to Q, an alien being of immense power and knowledge who despises humans. He puts the Enterprise on trial, telling Picard that if they behave in an uncivilized or cruel way he will kill them all. But Picard and his crew figure out that Farpoint has been keeping an alien jellyfish like creature captive an exploiting its ability to manipulate matter and energy, so when they release it they are given a reprieve from Q and are allowed to survive. The episode in general was a bit of a dud to me, and made me frustrated with several of the main characters. Lt. Yar was harsh and impulsive, making a woman in a security position appear like an overreactive b*tch. Deanna Troi was emotional and overacted a lot. I mentioned earlier that Picard was bossy and ungrateful.
In episode 2, The Naked Now, the show for the first of many times borrowed a story from The Original Series. In this episode the crew is infected with a mysterious illness that makes everyone lose their inhibition. What develops is a series of awkward and inappropriate encounters between crewmen, including that Yar sleeps with Data. But Dr. Crusher is able to find record of this illness when the original Enterprise and Kirk’s crew encountered it, so she eventually devices a cure. As much as Star Trek tried to be forward thinking, it was a little backward that one of the main reasons for this episode was to establish Yar’s character as a heterosexual, like being gay would have made her character weaker. Just gonna rant a moment here, and I know Doctor Who takes place much later than this show, but it’s so refreshing how accepting and second nature being gay is on that show.
Episode 3 was, frankly, a little barbaric. The crew must tolerate a new culture’s primitive and uncivilized behavior in order to get them to agree to give the Federation a new vaccine that will save many in the galaxy. Yar is forced to fight the first wife of the leader of this tribal culture in a battle to the death in order to prove the strength of the Enterprise and not interfere with this culture’s traditions as per the Prime Directive. It had a nice twist at the end, whereas in the beginning the women were claimed to be property and the weaker of the sexes, it was eventually revealed that they are actually the land owners and the men were often times just figureheads in their society. But it was also the first of many times that The Prime Directive was bandied about in an inconsistent manner. Essentially The Prime Directive prevents the Enterprise and it’s crew from interfering with new civilizations so that they can evolve and develop without human intervention. It’s really similar to Doctor Who when you think about it. There’s all this talk on Doctor Who of paradoxes and the consequences of manipulating or changing fixed points in time, when in reality the characters are just going to do what’s the right thing to save lives every time anyways. Well, it’s the same thing with The Federation and it’s Prime Directive. While it gets mentioned a lot, there are a lot of loop holes and really the crew is just going to do what is in their best interest most of the time anyways.
The good thing going for the next episode titled The Last Outpost was the introduction of the Ferengi species, an alien race obsessed with money and trade, known for their scheming and unfair deals. The bad thing was that they stole a common theme from TOS: this was one of those episodes involving some super powerful entity that tests both species for morality and lets them live when they chose right, Riker being the one that choses right here. Since it was such a boring theme that I had seen many times before, I ended up zoning out and not paying attention to most of this episode.
On a side note, by this point in the series Picard refers to Riker as “Number One”, which initially I thought funny but it grew on me. I just need to find a way to use this terminology in my job now!
In the episode Where No One Has Gone Before we are finally shown why Wesley Crusher is so important: he is a child prodigy, especially when it comes to engineering. This episode was also a little boring and unbelievable when a propulsion expert as well as his assistant (and mastermind) The Traveller end up sending the ship in to another galaxy past any known warp speed travelled before. While it was a fun idea, it was really unbelievable. Especially since I watched this episode the same week that the photos of Pluto came in, and I had learned that at the speeds that space ship was traveling objects as small as a grain of sand could destroy it.
In Lonely Among Us we get to see some awesome alien costumes, specifically of the reptile like Selay and canine like Antican. But again borrowing from TOS the ship passes through a strange energy cloud (there must be a lot of these in space, huh?). An energy being ends up on board through the computer system and possesses several crew members, lastly Picard who ends up joining with the being and beaming himself in to space with it. But naturally he does not die, and the transporter is able to reassemble him after Troi locates him by sensing his presence. I’m not saying it’s not a fun idea, but seriously, so many people claim that Star Trek is the epitomy of hard science fiction—really?! This is not much more believable than many of the Doctor Who episodes I watch. On a side note, this episode was probably a popular one as it involved Data randomly dressing up as Sherlock Holmes.
The episode Justice is all about manipulating the prime directive. The ship finds a planet that is like a utopia in so many ways. That is until it is found out that anyone who breaks a law no matter how frivolous it is will be executed. Wesley accidentally damages some plants in the garden on this planet and is sentenced to death for it, which results in a drawn out episode addressing laws and justice (hence the title of the episode). There was again some loose interpretation of the Prime Directive here, and I did feel quite sorry for Dr. Crusher. Picard had no intention of letting Wesley be killed, but he wasn’t that great at comforting his mother to think otherwise. Yet as always it all worked out in the end and everyone lived to see another day. Plus this planet is left alone and labeled as a “No Fly Zone” for future federation ships.
In The Battle we see Picard manipulated by a thought orb, causing him to suffer headaches, hallucinations, and eventually a flashback that almost gets him to blow up the Enterprise. It was all an elaborate revenge scheme by a Ferengi leader. I liked this episode a lot, for a couple reasons. I enjoyed Crusher talking about the medical advances they had made and how headaches were a thing of the past. I would like it if they did an entire episode on the medical field of the future, that would be fun. And I enjoyed the politics encountered on the Ferengi vessel- the other crew member are forced to relieve their commander of duty since he has attacked a federation ship by attacking Picard.
But the next episode I could have done without. Hide And Q was our second episode involving Q, where the alien returns and ends up requesting Riker to join his ranks. He obviously is very lonely and wants a companion, and admires Riker for some reason (this is even pre-beard Riker, pretty surprising, right?). There is a bizarre battle scene on a planet surface where men with pig faces try to fight some of the crew, and Riker is forced to struggle with having unlimited power. Eventually though all the others on the ship decline what their deepest desire is, and Riker gives his power back. I don’t know why I hated this episode, but I did. I think I find Q quite annoying, and it was just so over the top with unrealistic emotions among the crew members.
Now Haven was a great episode, mainly because Majel Barrett makes an appearance. She plays Troi’s mother, and is a quite over the top Betazoid woman. Troi has been previously promised to a pre-arranged marriage and it is time for her to fulfill that duty and marry the human doctor she’s been promised to. But conveniently both she and the man are in love with another, and the doctor’s soul mate arrives in the knick of time to save both of them from this barbaric practice of pre-arranged marriages. Barret’s character is so over the top I just loved her! She was unlike all the roles she has played in the past and this glimpse in to Betazoid culture was fun too.
I can understand why the episode The Big Goodbye would have been popular, but I was not a big fan. It did introduce us to the recurring theme of things going wrong with the Holodeck. But I guess I was never a fan of the 1940’s era so naturally I was not a fan of Picard picking this genre and being a private eye for the overall theme.
But Datalore was a much better follow up to the previous episode. This episode features Data’s twin brother Lore who could be from an alternate evil universe- too bad he didn’t have a goatee. This episode was predictable but enjoyable. And the use of stunt doubles was quite entertaining. Actually, the use of stunt doubles throughout the series is still pretty obvious and hilarious. I will also point out that this is the famous episode with the line “Shut up Wesley!”. I personally feel bad for Wesley, as he is always doing the right thing and often a step ahead of the adults, but being a child he is treated as such.
Angel One deals with a matriarchy society, and is another politically charged episode. In this one the crew is trying to save the survivors from a Federation ship crash on the planet several years ago, but their interference brings up another conundrum thanks to The Prime Directive. But seeing Riker in a 80’s-esque female jump suit with earrings and all might have made it worth it. And has anyone noticed the weird faces Riker makes, and that despite Troi having feelings for him he acts like Kirk?!?! He’s not exactly the most admirable or attractive of characters, I’m not sure where all the hype for him comes from.
I very much enjoyed the next episode 11001001, where a new species the Bynars are introduced. The species hijacks the ship in order to save their home planet, but all is forgiven since it is a simple misunderstanding between races. It wasn’t that simple, and was an interesting story.
Though it occurred a lot earlier, the episode Too Short A Season reminded me of the episode with the Lazarus project in Doctor Who. So you probably guessed that this story is about a man that reverses the aging process, but as a result ends up destroying his own body. It was a bit sluggish of an episode for me, I preferred the version featuring David Tennant.
It seems that TNG is on an every other episode stretch for me, meaning I liked every other episode. So I enjoyed the next episode When The Bough Breaks. In this episode a new legendary planet is found where all the people have immense powers and technology far beyond that of the Enterprise, but they kidnap the children of the Enterprise as their own since they have lost the ability to bear children. I did not enjoy the corny parts with the children, where Wesley played ring leader, but I did enjoy the medical aspects of the story. Wesley’s mother spends her time trying to discover why the people of Aldea are sterile in the first place, and then develops a cure, and it was actually fairly medically accurate.
Home Soil was a repeat of a TOS episode where humans colonizing a new planet discover a new, unknown life form, this one made of crystal rather than a Technicolor shag carpet. The funniest part of the whole episode was when the lifeform called humans “ugly bags of mostly water”. Yup, about sums up people.
Coming of Age featured Wesley’s first attempt to join Starfleet Academy. At the same time Picard and his crew are under inspection by Admiral Quinn and his assistant. The two are quite rude to Picard, but it turns out Quinn fears there is an unknown force traveling through the ranks of Starfleet, and since Picard seems immune to it he was hoping Picard would take a job running the Starfleet Academy. Of course Picard refuses so our crew remains whole. I actually enjoyed the side stories of Wesley trying to make it in to the Academy more than the stories on the ship.
Heart of Glory was a glorious episode in my opinion. I have mentioned before that I love stories involving Klingons, and this one gave us more of a glimpse in to their life style as well as some back story for Worf. And Dr. Crusher again proved herself to me as a medical expert. She is so much more calm and collected than Bones ever was. She keeps her cool, works her hardest, but also has that professional disconnect that prevents her from being too emotionally affected by death.
Getting close to the end here. This next episode, Arsenal of Freedom, was actually probably my least favorite of all of them. I zoned out for most of the episode, so can’t tell you much except that I learned the evil tech machinery from the planet they end up on was made of shampoo bottles and panty hose liners. Nice!
Symbiosis also addressed complications with the Prime Directive as the crew gets sucked in to a debate between two worlds over medication- medication that is actually a narcotic that keeps those on one planet addicted and in constant need of a supply from the other planet. I won’t say I agreed completely with what the crew decided to do, but it wasn’t a bad decision.
Skin of Evil was the token episode where *spoilers* Yar is killed! It all happened so fast I almost missed it! Another evil alien life form tortures the remainder of the crew in the meantime.
We’ll Always Have Paris was a relatively uneventful episode for me, but I did enjoy the time loops and dejavu.
Conspiracy is an interesting episode where the previously hinted to force spreading throughout Starfleet reveals itself. Turns out some parasitic alien species has been infecting many of the officers of Starfleet and manipulating the whole human race to do their bidding. It was overall a well done episode, and even though the special effects used a lot of playdough and Claymation, it at least was enough to make you laugh.
I overall was enjoying TNG a bit more and more as the season went on, with an occasional dud episode here and there that I completely ignored, but overall liked the overarching themes and various characters, both on the ship and aliens they encountered. Then we get to the last episode: The Neutral Zone. Sadly I have to say it was a bit of a let down. The episode deals with the discovery of a space capsule where several obnoxious individuals from the 20th century have been cryo-preserved. They are woken up (unfortunately) and struggle to deal with their rebirth hundreds of years after their death. Meanwhile the Enterprise goes to investigate the destruction of several outposts near the Neutral Zone. There they encounter a Romulan ship that is investigating the same destruction of their outposts. I am sure this will come to be of more importance in future episodes, but essentially this episode ended when the Romulans agreed to work alongside the humans. Yup, that was it, end of story. Talk about a lackluster ending.
However, I will watch season 2 and hope that some of these overarching themes continue. I hope there is an eventual explanation to the destruction of both human and Romulan outposts, and look forward to the continued development of the most vital characters in the show. In particular, I am a huge fan of Dr. Crusher and look forward to her development, though wish she and Picard didn’t have this awkward song and dance that they do. Until next time Trekkies!
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Posted on July 29, 2015, in TV, TV From the Crypts and tagged Data, Picard, Riker, Roddenberry, Sci-Fi, space, Star Trek, Star Trek The Next Generation, The Final Frontier, TV, TV From the Crypts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.